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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Hadrian's wall at last.

 The worry of leaving and getting stuck on that hill kept me from a good nights sleep. Ian, ever the optimist, had no qualms though and slept like a baby. Voicing my concerns over breakfast, he said, "If I keep well over to the left, we should be okay." So with some trepidation, I walked up that hill and waited for the inevitable to happen. Well...he made it part way, why he stopped I have no idea, but stop he did! Went to pull away again but the offside front wheel lost all grip on the loose gravel. Rolling back he tried again and this time foot hard down on the throttle, and he was almost at the top when the wheel spun again throwing up a vast amount of dust and grit. Gosh, there was a strong smell of burning rubber, I reckon the tyre will be bald if we keep stopping on gravelly hills. MB made it though, and Ian was right, MB's chassis never did come in contact with the tarmac. I somehow don't think, this site will be used again, although the river setting was ever so quiet and peaceful and the facilities so very clean.

 We found more of Hadrian's Wall....yea....at last. It was a tiny section seen from across the Tyne river when we visited the Chester Fort, another of the English Heritage sites and I must just say, out of all the Roman ruins seen over the last day or two, this was by far the most detailed and intact.

The short section of wall

Two hours flew by, I enjoyed this visit more than the others only because of the information boards along the way which was informative and had detailed pictures. The stables interested me. Tiny was not the word. The horses must have been considerably smaller in them days, just check out the entrance, Three horses and three cavalry men all slept in the one stable. The men had to. you see, the cost of the horse was too great to allow it to be stolen

Bath House top two and bottom left and latrine bottom right

Commanding Officers quarters with treasury house, bottom left.
All these artefacts were found by John Clayton in the Victorian era

 Before we knew it, the morning had gone so a hasty sandwich for lunch, and we headed for the Temple of Mithras. On route and on a long downhill section, more of the wall was seen. How do we get to it, we asked ourselves, and where do we park?. A small lay-by was seen about a mile from the ruin, but with two vehicles already parked, there was no room for us. 

Seen from the road

So we proceeded to the temple. This did have a car park but was a Pay and Display run by the Northampton National Parks so even though the temple was English Heritage, we still had to pay. One pound for one hour, thats all we put in the machine and hoped that would be long enough to walk there and back. It was because 10 minutes after starting the walk, the Temple came into view.

Temple of Mithras.

Hmm, not quite what we expected, a little disappointed if truth be known. Still, we had to go see. I was still itching to see if we could walk to that bit of wall seen from the road. It was nearly 2 miles from this car park, so once back at MB, we decided to drive back to the lay-by and see if it was free.

We were in luck as only one car parked. So Jessie hat on because the sun was low, (nothing worse than squinting against the glare) anti midge spray liberally applied to bare skin, we set off in a jaunty mood. 

There was a pile of huge boulders along the wall route. Absolutely no idea why they were there. Some looked to have been chiselled into shapes, were these the unwanted stone when the Romans built the wall? Anyway, it was something to discuss as we walked toward the stretch of wall seen from the road.

We came across this section of wall first, and way into the distance was Black Carts Turret.

Clambering over a couple of stiles it lay before us, in a field full of young heifers and bullocks, that section of wall seen from MB from the road.


Black Carts Turret

Walking back took much longer, all my fault because I would keep stopping to take wildlife photos. Ian has the patience of a saint as far as that is concerned. We did eventually spy MB in the distance, parked all alone in that lay-by.

Thought this made a pretty picture
 And wildlife today,

Oyster Catchers

Yellow Hammer

Large Blue

Meadow Pipit


Tuesday 29 June 2021

A horrible grating sound as we bottomed out.

 It's been a funny sort of day, we had an idea of what we wanted to do, walk part of Hadrian's wall. Trouble was, we couldn't find it! No that's not strictly true, we actually drove along next to it, saw folk walking a trail and assumed it was the wall. Nowhere to stop and park, though, and that was the problem. We drove to Heddon-on-the-wall, found a finger post showing where part of the wall was, parked up in a coach bay at the side of the road and walked, in what we hoped, was the right direction. 

Found it with a bit of trial and error, a gate looking very dilapidated, and almost didn't go through. I noticed the sign first. Yep, we were on the right track. Rather than me try to explain all about this section of wall, I thought it easier to take a photo of the sign and let you read it yourself.

Still on the Hadrian's wall hunt, we ended up at Corbridge. Not all the sites were heavily guarded fortresses, and Corbridge was once a bustling town and supply base where Romans and civilians would pick up food and provisions. But not a glimpse of Hadrian's wall was had 'cos apparently it was about 2.5 miles from Corbridge itself!

Are we destined to find Roman sites only? Where was the wall??? Off then to a place called Vindolanda. Surely the elusive wall would appear. Nop, this was a Roman auxiliary fort (castrum) and the wall was just south of it.

It was vast, and the fact that we didn't arrive until 4 pm and they shut at 5 pm, it would be a struggle to see the museum and grounds. But the nice Heritage lady said we could stay as long as we liked and leave by the rotating security gate.

Top two picture,  horse heads and a dog skeletons and bottom, jewellery and glass found during excavation

The garden by the café

By 6 pm we were heading back to MB. A wild camp site had been found at Plankey Mill, right on the river. The lane leading down was narrow, I mean very narrow! Both wing mirrors were brushing the sides, and God help us if another car turned up! Made it in one piece only to be confronted with 'Camping Grounds Closed' sign at the bottom. Oh, eck....now what. Back up that lane with fingers crossed nothing would be met, and stopped at the top to start phoning around. Every camp site fully booked. One more to try, and thank goodness they had room. At Haydon Bridge, not 4 miles from where we were stopped, so with hopes once more soaring we headed to the place.Then...OMG...another very narrow lane with a steep hairpin onto the site grounds. When I say steep, we actually bottomed out as Ian tried to swing MB round.. A horrible grating noise was heard, so Ian tried to reverse back up. Nop those wheels started spinning and all we could do was to go forward and continue down. And looking at the place, it was full of static caravans and not another camper or motorhome in sight. What had we come to and more importantly how would we get out?


 But all was well in the end. We found the owner and she directed us to a spot right next to the river. All set for the night now, but the worry of how we will bring MB out tomorrow still persists!

Anything loose Ian? We got away remarkably intact. In fact, we think it was the step that made contact with the concrete.

And wildlife today,

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